* sorry to anyone logging on this morning. i could not get on the site to post today's story. i put this together in a separate word document which led to the unorthodox capitalization.
Today is, unless I misremember, viva el birdos day. I will not be there but I am sure that fun will be had by all, several people will drink too much, and spants will infect everyone with her current illness, which will turn out not to be a conventional cold but rather a new and exotic ailment that will be called "viva el birdos disease" forever more. It will be the first illness to be named for a baseball fan blog, sort of like legionnaires’ disease, which was named for a hotel convention that went hideously wrong when some microbes in the ventilation shaft gave all the Legionnaires attending the convention a previously unknown respiratory disease.
Have a good time, everybody!
Last night was a good game to win, with some unique contributions from two important players.
The first is matt holliday, who went 3 for 4 last night with a two-run homer. Matt has been much-maligned this year. Not so much for how he’s hitting generally, which has been fine – but only just fine – at a wOBA of .363, far off his recent season totals of .390, .418, .428, and .409. when the cardinals dropped that massive chunk of money on him, they thought they were getting that .400 wOBA hitter.
Before I go further, I have to point out an ad on matt holliday’s B-R page. His sponsor – who will remain nameless so I drive no more business to him – is a clothing merchandiser whose ad states: "WEAR WHAT THE THE BIG LEAGUERS LIKE MARK REYNOLDS AND DOUG DAVIS WEAR." I’m not sure if the author of the ad is a big d-backs fan, someone unfamiliar with the game, or some kind of Taiwanese spambot conjoining English words and names via a complex algorithim. You would think, though, that the number of folks walking around saying "I wish I could dress like doug davis" is a fairly small one.
returning to holliday, he’s hitting more or less like usual. His walk, line drive, and strikeout rates are close to his career norms. His BABIP for 2010 is .323 which sounds like he’s not getting bad luck, until you see that his career BABIP is .349. I think his production is going to come back and he’ll look much more like that .400 wOBA hitter we signed as the season progresses.
But what has really gotten people up in arms is matt’s situational hitting. Matt has had 277 PA’s so far this season. Out of those 277 PA’s, 86 have come with runners in scoring position. Matt is hitting .197/.241/.250 with runners in scoring position.
Yes, those numbers are terrible. But even the whole of his season so far, all 277 PA’s is a fairly small sample size. 86 PA’s is tiny and meaningless. That’s like worrying why matt holliday doesn’t hit on Tuesdays, or on dates that are multiples of three. We just assume that there are "clutch" hitters out there and that the distinction between hitting in a clutch situation and a non-clutch situation is meaningful.
Matt holliday has never had a problem hitting under pressure. His lifetime OPS with RISP is .868 v. a career OPS of .925, which is within the normal range of variation. He doesn’t "struggle" hitting with RISP more than in the sixth inning, say – where he has a lifetime OPS of .875. SIXTH INNING CHOKER!
More important for the team, though, is skip schumaker’s poor production so far. skip also went 3 for 4 last night, hitting a key double. Hopefully, that’s something we’ll see more of.
Skippy has always been a weird hitter. Skip’s calling card is the ground ball, which is sort of an odd calling card, like a pitcher having a hanging slider as a signature pitch. Skip’s lifetime ground ball rate is 58.5%. last year, he led the league in groundball rate, just ahead of luminaries like luis castillo, michael bourn, derek jeter, and orlando hudson. It’s weird that he should be a generally strong hitter with such a profile, since groundballs still don’t seem like a terribly successful tactic for him (OPS of .393 this year and .470 career on groundballs).
Nevertheless, skip has put together numerous seasons of high contact, high average, low power hitting. While never a tremendous hitter, he’s been above average (wOBA’s of .336, .341, .353 the last three years), a serviceable outfielder, and a surprising secondbaseman. By surprising, I mean, surprising that he is playing second base, not that he’s been particularly adept at second base.
So, what’s going on? Did skip just run out of whatever pixie dust that was making him somehow hit tolerably, even though he specializes in making contact that’s highly likely to create outs? The answer, I think, is again that he’s having a surprising run of bad luck. Skip’s actually hitting the ball harder than ever – with a 24% line drive rate that would be a personal best over a full season. For that effort, he’s been rewarded with a .285 BABIP. As with matt, I fully anticipate skip to do much better going forward without changing anything.
In the long term though, skip is a slightly above average hitter who doesn’t play second base very well and who simply must be platooned. down in the high minors, we have daniel descalso who is tolerable, but probably not much better than skippy in the long run at the plate. descalso's defense is probably about average, as opposed to skip’s below average defense. tyler greene could make a push for a position change to second, especially as he could begin as skippy’s platoon partner. greene has been a hard talent to read, at times showing flashes of being a power-hitting plus-defending shortstop, at others looking overmatched at the plate and making simple errors on routine plays. In his age 27 season, greene’s window of opportunity is rapidly closing. The pieces are all still there; the question remains whether he can put them together.
While we’re on the subject of first-round shortstops with unrealized potential, pete kozma is a right-handed shortstop who has demolished left-handers in springfield this year (.906 OPS). While that is a small sample size, he has a huge platoon split for his career in the minors (.782 v. LHP, .620 v. RHP). He is a plausible platoon partner in future years for skippy or descalso at second. My pet prospect, Matt Carpenter, has an .857 OPS after a promotion to Springfield, including a .390 OBP to follow a preposterous .437 OBP in Palm Beach. While Matt is in his age-25 season, he was only signed last year, following the patented David Freese delayed-development path. Freese is showing no sign of letting go of the 3B position in upcoming years, so a shift to second might be a good plan for Matt, who is a very strong defender at third, though he does not project as a power hitter.
edit - okay, i can't not link this - pittsburgh fires racing pierogi for disparaging the ballclub.